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Whether you’re hunting for your first job, just graduated from school, or re-inventing yourself and changing fields, landing a job, let alone an interview, with no prior work experience can be difficult.

Sometimes applying to a job posting can seem a bit contradictory, you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience.  And, even the entry level jobs seem to “require” prior experience on the job posting.

Where is everyone else getting this experience?  Everyone else had to start out similarly to you, right? There was a point in almost every person’s life when they had no work experience before landing their first job.  So how do you get your foot in the door?

Know Your Worth

First things first, you have to know your worth.  You want the job?  Then you need to know before applying why the company should hire you over someone with experience.

Write a list of all of your talents, skills, life experiences, knowledge, and personal characteristics that are relevant to the role you want.  You have to convince yourself that you can do the job before you can convince anyone else.

Knowing what you have to offer can help you show that while you may not have traditional work experience, you have plenty of life experience to qualify you for the position.

Do it Yourself!

Still feeling a little lack luster in the experience department?  Create your own experiences.

Volunteer with organizations that will help you develop the necessary skill sets needed for the type of work you are interested in.

Seek out an unpaid internship with companies you are interested in working for.  If you can’t commit full-time because you need to be earning an income, offer to do project based work or work on a part-time basis.

Still not finding any opportunities to pursue to gain the experience you need, do it yourself.  Work for free for others.

If you want to go into graphic design, offer to design websites for friends and family or small businesses you are familiar with.  If you want to write, start your own blog.  Want to go into social media, do pro-bono consulting for companies who can’t afford to pay for these sorts of services.

Need administrative skills?  There are many people who would hire an assistant on the cheap or free in exchange for teaching you about their business.

You don’t need permission to create your own experiences and you don’t need to be employed.  And, if you’re passionate enough to do what you enjoy for free, your next employer will see how dedicated you are.

Network

There’s nothing better than having someone be able to vouch for your qualifications than someone who knows the hiring manager.  But, the only way they can vouch for you is if they know you’re looking for a job and how they can help you.

Reach out to your network and let them know what you’re doing.  Perhaps they have connections, perhaps they’re someone you can do project work for, or they may simply have ideas and support.

Whatever the case, you shouldn’t operate in a bubble.  Opportunities will arise where you least expect them.  You have to do your part and build your community of support to bring more opportunities to you.

Revamp Your Resume

You’re never going to land that coveted interview if your resume doesn’t reflect all of the relevant experience you have.  If you don’t have the work experience, fill in the blanks to tell a great story to the person reviewing your qualifications.

Don’t just have a piece of paper with your education and prior jobs listed.  With each job, highlight the transferable skills sets to the position you are trying to attain.  Include your volunteer work and outline what you did.  List your unpaid work experience and the results you achieved.

Make yourself stand out on the resume to show that you can do the job.

Be Memorable

Once you finally land the interview, you need to shine.  You’re up against competition that has real work experience.  You have to show that despite that hurdle, you are the best fit for the position.

Be memorable.  Not in that, I can’t believe the candidate just did that sort of way, but in that, this is an amazing candidate and I want to hire them, way.

Smile.  Be positive, energetic, kind, charming, and above all, likable.  Put any shyness away and remember, what have you got to lose–you made it this far.

It’s been shown that the majority of people make hiring decisions based on their gut and if they like the candidate.  What’s on your resume, at this point, means less to them than the person you are presenting yourself to be in their presence.

Show how hard of a worker you are, that you’re coachable, can learn quickly, and that you are passionate about the position and you will already have a leg up on the competition.

And, don’t forget to be informed.  Know as much as you can about the position and the company to show how serious you are about the role.  Don’t let you competition have any other advantage over you, other than their traditional work experience.

The real key to landing a job with no experience is to be able to tell a good story, on paper and in person, and to believe in yourself.  If you have doubts that you can do the job, so will the interviewer.  If you are confident and capable, that will show through.

Sometimes, it can take some practice putting together the right elements to make a great story to showcase your non-traditional experience and figuring out what you have to offer. But, like most good stories, there’s usually a happy ending, and your efforts will pay off.

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